CT: What the hell, man?!!
Teddy: Sorry. … Your ears are just so weird! How did they get like that?
CT: The same way you got to be a jackass. I was born that way.
[©GGS circa 2007, all rights reserved.]
[© GGS circa 2007, all rights reserved.]
Girl Bunny: “Hi Sean. ♥Heey♥ ♥ Teddy!♥”
CT (Sean): “Wassup Girl!”
CT: “Damn, she is foiine!!”
Teddy: “She’s okay. I don’t really like bunnies.”
CT: “What?! Why?!”
Teddy: “Ears are too long and their tails are too big. Gross. Give me little ears and tiny tails. You can have the bunnies.”
CT: “Sometimes I don’t know how we are friends.”
Teddy: “I’m not racist, you know.”
[©GGS circa 2007, all rights reserved.]
CT: “I don’t know man. It’s just really hard being the only bunny here. … I just feel all this pressure to change my costume, to be a bear. … I don’t want to change. I shouldn’t have to!”
Teddy: “Well Man. I don’t even see your costume. I just see a man. I don’t care if you are a bunny.
CT: “But if you ignore my costume, are you ignoring part of me?”
In Gabriel’s only semester at Corona del Mar High School in Newport Beach, CA, he quickly made his prescence known. When his response to an offensive and irresponsible editorial in the school newspaper was rejected for publication, Gabe printed 100 or so flyers and handed them out to students … until he was stopped by school administrators and, if I recall correctly, instructed to collect the ones he had already distributed. His reasoning matured with age and experience, but the incubation of an activist with high ideals and the ability to articulate them is evident here. I proudly introduce Editorial or Christian Bashing? by Gabriel G. Scheller
I opened the paper this morning in first period. I flipped through the pages looking for something that would grab my interest. There was a headline in bold block lettering that stated simply “Evangelical Christians.” This interested me so I decided to read on. I would first off like to say that if I was to write something that put down any religion other than Christianity the way Ms. Y did, it would never make it to the final issue. R seems to have an utter resentment and hostility towards a whole group of people that she is not afraid to hide. Now, on the mistakes she made in her effort to turn our campus against my faith.
Finally I come to the part that angered me the most. Ms. Y refers to one man’s ridiculous view that “it has always been Christians and Jews on one side and Muslims on the other” and places that idea on the entire “crazy Christian group” to which I belong. This is by far one of the most unfair statements that R made. It is the equivalent of me saying that all Muslims are crazy and “absurd” because a select few flew some planes into the WTC. I would never make such a statement. I have known many Muslims and they have all proven to be extremely kind and accepting. I would not dare do anything so ignorant as to discount a whole group of people because of one man’s bad choice.
We will start with the first sentence of the first paragraph. R states that “the evangelicals are hard-core Christians who interpret the Bible word for word.” She also states towards the end that “the Bible should not be interpreted literally. If it were, where would all other religions fit in?” To start off, I think that if you live your life by a certain book, or law, why wouldn’t you take it literally? If you belong to a religion, you don’t pick and choose which parts sound nice to you. You take it for all it is, the whole thing. Imagine if we ignored certain laws and only obeyed the ones that we agreed with. “Well, I’m sorry officer. I know it is illegal to speed in a school zone with pot in my car, but I don’t really like that law. The one that prohibits murder is nice, but I shouldn’t have to follow that MIP one because I don’t like it.” If you agree to be part of a country or a religion, you also take on the responsibility of the laws laid out.
In reaction to her second statement, no one said religion had to be “PC.” I can believe what I want without worrying if it is going to offend someone. This skewed logic reminds me of a certain book written by Ray Bradbury. In this story, the government gets rid of all the books, religious or not, because anything that is written will upset at least some people. So the government burns all books so no one will be upset. I wonder if in R’s quest for people to compromise their religious convictions to make other people happy, she considered what such a mindset could lead to. It seems that Ms. Y believes that we should have tolerance for all religions, give them all equal consideration. I do not dispute that point. But R seems to have no tolerance for Christianity as she unwittingly tears it apart.
As for her statement about most of our senators and presidents being Christian, why is that even an issue? Is it even relative? I’m not positive R knows this, but almost all our founding fathers had religious beliefs. It seems that R wants our political leaders to have no religion at all. But would that be a true representation of our country? I don’t think so. Most Americans claim to be Christian. Just ask your history teacher. I am sure he would not dispute that fact. Furthermore it would be nearly impossible to find men for every political position who believed in nothing. R says it is sad that religion will always play a part in politics. I disagree. How do you think our first moral laws were established? Can you tell me why it is bad to cheat on your girlfriend? Can you tell me why it isn’t legal to have more than one wife? These things had to come from somewhere.
R seems to focus her article on Christians disliking Jews. She says that we believe Jews are going to be destroyed when the Armageddon comes. I looked in my Bible and I couldn’t find a spot where it said that. In the book of Revelation in chapter 14, John writes that 144,000 Jews will be sent to heaven during the end times. If we flip back a little to the book of Romans, it talks about how the Jews will see that the Antichrist is terrorizing the earth and they will realize that Jesus was the Messiah they have been waiting for. The Bible also states in Genesis 12:3 that God will bless those who bless the Jews and curse those who curse them. As a Christian, I worship a JEW! Jesus Christ was a Jew! I don’t know, maybe that episode of 60 Minutes slanted the truth in some way, but I think if a journalist is going to state someone else’s beliefs, she should at least do it knowing all the facts.
[© GGS 2002, all rights reserved.]
New York is beautiful.
I forgot how much I missed it.
So much life in this city. American remix.
Culture rich city. I’ll move there someday,
just to see the breakers dancing in the subway.
There’s no music there; the sound system’s busted.
D-line. Old man, hands calloused and crusted.
The music flows out of his fingers to his violin.
I don’t know which one it is,
but it’s beautiful.
The notes send shivers down my spine.
So crisp and so clear, from his soul to mine.
Moving on. Late night. Lost.
Eerie neon piercing the cold winter air.
The streets are packed.
I bump a shoulder. I’m sorry.
Thousands of people, each with his own story.
So many eyes, so many faces, so many mouths.
One in particular manages to stick out.
A creature with many eyes; they keep blinking at me,
opening, closing, keepin’ a beat.
Its voice, its cry, warm and mellow. Its skin,
shiny gold. Carmel. Yellow.
The streets. The people. The music in my ears.
I throw him some change from my pocket;
I played the sax for 8 years.
He asked me why I stopped.
I didn’t have an answer.
He started again. I walked away faster.
Time to go. Where’s my train?
I hope I don’t get lost again,
but I make it on time.
Seventh Ave. MTV.
I remember that hot dog stand.
I’m actually early.
Gramma woulda’ been worried.
I walk to a shop.
Penn Station is huge.
Buy some water.
Two men lookin’ used.
They have a tired, sad look in their eyes,
like their spirits are broken,
like they want to cry,
like they been to hell and back.
Put down their beers.
They were Brian and Tone.
more than I’ve known.
about my ‘fro.
Be proud to be black.
[© GGS 2005, all rights reserved.]
I wish I’d seen this documentary months ago … then I might not have missed or misread the warning signs for suicidal depression that Gabe was exhibiting. These symptoms are used to diagnose adolescent depression, but could just as well have described my 23 year old:
Other warning signs include:
From the PBS depression fact sheet for adolescents and college age students:
“One out of four young adults will experience a depressive episode by age 24. Depression is caused by a variety of factors, including genetics, environment and adverse life stressors. Teens that have chronic illnesses or have experienced trauma are at greater risk of developing depression. …
When your teen goes away to college they are exposed to many stressors that can lead them to develop depression or other mental illnesses. Moving away from friends and family, taking care of yourself for the first time (money, laundry, etc.), having to make new friends, and being academically challenged can be overwhelming. It’s harder to know how your teen is doing when they are away but you should know that surveys have shown that about 50% of college students report feeling so depressed that they have trouble functioning. Many colleges have established good mental health awareness programs and services to aid students. It’s a good idea to know ahead of time how these issues are handled.”
You can plug in your zipcode here to find out when Depression: Out of the Shadows airs on your local PBS station. I only caught part of it last night, but learned so much in that brief introduction that I’ll be watching and recording the entire show on station KCET tomorrow evening at 7pm.
The Depression: Out of the Shadows website includes plenty of informative resources and links. If you suspect that you or someone you love is suffering from depression, get the help you need.
Update 5/24: I apologize to those of you who were looking for this documentary on KCET last night at 7pm. It was only on digital KCET and is not listed for the coming 2 weeks. I’ll post the next air time when I can confirm it.
Update 5/26: Depression: Out of the Shadows will air on station KOCE (Huntington Beach) on Thursday, May 29 at 8pm. I’m setting my Tivo this time. (At 7pm, a show called Men Get Depression Too will air.)
The poets and artists silence us pontificators …
For Gabe, a poem by Chuck Liu
Kitchen Cabinet Cross by Richard Gifford and Lenny Bernotas
Art and Inspiration by Gabriel Scheller
Art is passion.
Art is emotion.
Love, anger, hatred, bitterness,
hope, dreams and beauty
reflected in lead, ink, paint and film.
Art isn’t what’s popular.
It’s not spoon-fed baby food
consumed by the crying infant of society.
Society is crying for passion.
The type of art that captures.
Captures that moment.
That tear. That smile.
That laugh. That touch.
We all find solace in art
because it reaffirms
the feelings and experiences
we thought we only had ourselves,
but didn’t have the skill
or courage to express it.
An artist opens his heart. His soul. In the hopes
that just one person
finds solace in not being the only one.
Money doesn’t drive me.
The bottled up tears of my peers
are what inspire me.
[© GGS 11/2/05]
[note: I had intended to post Gabriel’s film parody of MTV’s Total Request Live (TRL) today, but was unable to upload the file to YouTube. Perhaps another time. One of Gabe’s goals in auditioning for Next and The Real World was to manipulate the manipulators … even as he himself struggled to resist being manipulated by commercial influences.]
Gabriel Gifford Scheller was born in Neptune, NJ, on November 27, 1984. He was the delight of his family’s life from his earliest days on earth, and welcomed a brother into his heart when he was two-and-a-half years old.
At age four his neurologist suggested IQ testing to get him into kindergarten early because he was so bright. His parents complied and were a bit stunned at the results. He was published for the first time that year in Highlights for Children magazine. He wrote this poem about being a different color than his family:
” A rock is a rock.
You don’t get different;
you just stay the way you are.”
Gabriel performed in his first play in 1st grade at Antrim Elementary School in Point Pleasant Beach, NJ. The play was “The Little Red Hen.” It was an after-lunch classroom performance that his mother missed because she had fallen asleep with Gabe’s little brother. He never let her forget it. There would be many other plays, most of them at Trinity Bible Church, under the direction of Angela Derby and Cherie Carl. Gabe’s comedic gifts were first exercised formally at TBC.
In second grade, he and his family moved to the ethnically diverse city of Long Branch, NJ, and Gabe entered the Gifted and Talented magnet program the following year. He was published in Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse Junior magazine sometime after that. (This work is temporarily MIA.)
He began playing the clarinet and then the saxophone in 3rd grade at the behest of his parents … and always insisted he would never thank them for the privilege. This discipline afforded him the opportunity to perform with the Long Branch High School Marching Band at 1-2 Yankees playoff games, a world series game and a Yankees ticker-tape parade.
Beginning in elementary school and into high school, Gabe played baseball with little success, but much enjoyment.
His creative gifts were extensive. From early childhood into adulthood, he made cards and gifts for his family. His cards were always brimming with wit and humor. His artistic creations were elaborate, such as a lifelike origami replica of his dad and a polymer baby Jesus that adorns our family creche. He also wrote and performed many skits and began writing a novel while still in high school.
Gabriel’s generosity came naturally and began early. He began working at 14 years old, and delighted in purchasing deeply thoughtful gifts for the people he loved.
From the middle of 5th grade through 8th grade, Gabe was homeschooled along with his brother and we enjoyed many off-season trips together as a family. He also spent many hours working with his dad and grandpa renovating their rental properties. We called it wood shop. He spent the summer before his freshman year of college working for his grandfather as an iron worker tying steel on a major railroad bridge project in Newark, NJ.
Gabriel was a varsity scholar in high school and was inducted into the National Honor Society as a junior. He needed a sponsor and chose Reverend Elmer Jackson, president of West Side Christian Academy and summer camp in Redbank, NJ. Reverend Jackson strode regally to the stage in in his purple and gold kente cloth attire at the induction ceremony. Gabe followed and thought it would be funny to purposely fall down the steps as he exited the stage. He got a lot of laughs, a sprained ankle and a stern lecture from mom.
In his recommendation letter, Reverend Jackson said this about Gabriel:
“Gabe never complains, he accepts challenges readily and undertakes his assignments with an infectious enthusiasm. During our after-school homework club, Gabe has demonstrated great capacity to explain academic concepts to our students. He demonstrates the needed patience required for our special students while he works in class or during play breaks. His service has been deeply appreciated here. Gabe is one of the finest young men that I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. His work ethic is inspiring. Our organization and students (who actually stand up and cheer, if they get the chance, when Gabe arrives) are the better because of him.”
During the summers that Gabe volunteered, Bruce Springsteen took Reverend Jackson’s small group of campers to lunch and then into his studio to record some songs. Gabriel participated in two of these recording sessions. (The recordings are also MIA.)
As a high school senior in California, Gabe began working at Boomers Amusement Park in Irvine. He returned to this job when he was home from college on summer and winter breaks (except for the summer when he taught film at Camp Winnebago in Fayette, Maine). He interned at the TV Guide Network during his summers at home.
At Wheaton College, Gabe was well known for his infectious personality and creativity. He recruited friends to perform in his films, wrote and performed a thoughtful rap for a chapel service and competed in the annual talent show. As a sophomore, when his friends were caught in the infamous televised girls’ soccer game streaking incident, Gabe willingly confessed his supporting role. He used his creative gifts to provocatively challenge racial apathy and injustice in this community. As a member of GUP (Global Urban Perspectives), Gabe found friendship, camaraderie and an outlet for his passion.
One professor wrote this in an email: “[Gabe] was one of my most creative and talented students. I thought of him often and wondered what he would do with his many interests. We shared many discussions in my office of his hopes and disappointments, and, as you know, he was a young man that had far more going for him than he could understand at the moment. I’m saddened that we do not get to see the outcome of maturation. I was confident that passing through this particular stage of questioning and struggling, he would flourish, not in spite of, but because of the fortitude and pursuit required.”
After graduation, Gabriel worked as a manager at Boomers and then briefly as a car salesman. In February, he went to work for his dad at AllBrand Windows and sold 65 windows to his first customer. On March 22, he performed with great success at the Belly Room at the world-famous Comedy Store in LA. The club management did not believe that Gabe had never before performed stand-up comedy professionally. He was in final rounds of consideration for an upcoming season of MTV’s The Real World and will appear in an episode of MTV’s Next this summer.
Gabe’s gifts and accomplishments extend far beyond this summary and begin and end with his love for others, as evidenced by this music review that was published in the Asbury Park Presswhen he was 13 years old:
It Will Survive! Gettin’ jiggy with that ’70s music
“‘ We are Family,’ ‘Play that Funky Music,’ ‘Macho Man,’ and the ‘Hustle.’
These songs were the ‘Macarenas’ of the 70s. On ‘Pure Disco 2,’ there is a truckload of ‘I loved this song when I wa your age’ music.
I was at The Wiz with my mom and my brother. My mom was checking out the CDs while I was playing a kickin’ game of MDR on Playstation there.
My little brother came running over and said, ‘Gabe, guess what? Mom is buying ‘Pure Disco 2.’
I have to say that I was kind of shocked. I know my mom is weird, but this was pretty extreme even for her.
‘Well,’ I thought, ‘here comes another one of her dumb CDs.’
We got home and my mom put ‘Pure Disco 2’ in the CD player right away.
‘I Will Survive’ started playing and she went nuts. She started dancing like only my mom can, yelling and singing with the song.
I thought it was really stupid at first, but then I thought it looked kind of fun to dance like that.
Soon I joined her and we were dancing together. The music finished and I was out of breath, but it was a lot of fun.
Anyway, the CD was really cool. It has a lot of keep-your-feet-moving kind of music, which surprised me.
I recommend ‘Pure Disco 2’ to anyone who likes to dance. It is really a bust-a-move kind of CD.”
I neglected to expound upon a defining element of Gabe’s life. He was a Christian. As an infant, he was dedicated to the Lord by his parents. He made a private confession of faith as a child and later chose to be baptized by immersion at Trinity Bible Church. In high school, he was a member of the Long Branch chapter of Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and was the student leader of the club in his senior junior year.
On the day Gabriel died, he made a public profession of his love for Jesus when a woman came into his workplace to evangelize the sales team. Rob Speight, the former TBC pastor who married Gabe’s parents and dedicated him to the Lord, flew to the service in NJ from Chicago (along with his wife Chris) and prayed the final burial prayer committing Gabe’s body to the ground and his spirit to our Lord.
Wheaton College professor John Walford gave a passionate testimony about his brushes with suicide at a recent Wheaton chapel service. There have been three recent alumni suicides in the past year, and the university is rightly concerned about a trend that reflects an alarming three-fold increase in youth suicide.
While I commend both the university in its desire to address the issue with a strong exhortation and Dr. Walford for his transparency, the message fell short in that it lacks the expert advice that might have provided students with consolation, deeper understanding and tangible help.
Today I’d like to commend to you InterVarsity Press editor and Christianity Today columnist Al Hsu’s excellent book, Grieving a Suicide. I met Al in February at the National Pastors’ Convention and noticed this book on a display table. After Gabe’s death and before we left for the services in New Jersey, I asked him to send me a copy. It was waiting for me when we returned to California. I’m reading it for the second time and ordered 10 more copies for family and friends. (I received the shipment yesterday and will distribute the books forthwith.)
Al’s book is dedicated to his father, Terry Tsai-Yuan Hsu, an accomplished electrical engineer who took his own life after a debilitating stroke. Al brings to the topic both a survivor’s understanding and good scholarship.
The book is divided into three parts:
In Part I, we learn that “the grief that suicide survivors experience is described by psychologists as ‘complicated grief.’ … Those of us who experience complicated bereavement are actually grappling with two realities, grief and trauma. Grief is normal; trauma is not. The combination of circumstances is like a vicious one-two punch. We are grieving the death of a loved one, and we are reeling from the trauma of suicide. The first is difficult enough; the second may seem unbearable.”
Al categorizes the resultant turmoil as follows:
In the chapter from Part II on remembrance, Al offers this helpful advice:
“Because of the corrosive, personality-altering nature of suicidal depression, ‘by the time suicide occurs, those who kill themselves may resemble only slightly children or spouses once greatly loved and enjoyed for their company.’ The days, weeks and years following a suicide may be a time of gradually recovering the memories of our loved one, of discovering true and lasting remembrances of their life.”
The chapter I have most marked up is the Why chapter. From our first conversation at 5:00 in the morning after Gabe died, Aaron Kheriaty gently but firmly instructed us that the suicide will never make sense. And yet we try …
Al writes, “We must make a distinction between causes and triggers. Suicide might be triggered by divorce or the loss of a job, but those may not be the actual causes … Suicidal desires run much deeper, and if one event does not trigger the suicide, another might.”
Nonetheless there are some defining characteristics:
Al mentions other factors like suicide as philosophical protest, the higher tendency toward depression/suicide in those with artistic temperaments, suicide because of grief (eg. 9/11 survivors) and suicide as atonement.
He says we may be asking the why question when what we really want to know is How could they do this to me? For him, it is helpful to realize that his father “did what he did to end his pain, not to cause pain for me.”
Each life and death is both common and unique. Dr. Walford’s experience with the temptation toward suicide sounds familiar and yet very different from Gabe’s. He communicated it in his chapel message through the lens of spiritual battle. That is one lens. The context of Gabriel’s death reads to me like a perfect storm of contributing factors. I see his suicide through a compound lens.
Walford chose a route to suicide that allowed him the opportunity to come to his senses. Gabe did not. Is one man more spiritual than the other because of method or outcome? I think not.
In Part III of Grieving a Suicide, Al talks about life after suicide. In the chapter on the healing community, he gives good advice on the language we use to describe suicide. Instead of saying someone “committed suicide” as if the victim were a criminal, we can say they died by suicide or they took their own life.
The final chapter offers five lessons we can learn from suicide:
Our family has been mercifully spared much insensitivity and ignorance in the wake of this tragedy. I can’t imagine going through this without the wise counsel of those who’ve walked the road before. Grieving a Suicide is a book I don’t ever want to recommend again because doing so would mean someone else enduring this type of senseless tragedy. And yet, a suicide occurs every 17 minutes in the United States.
If you are a pastor or lay minister, prepare yourself with knowledge before you try to minister to the grieving and confused. This book will help you do that; it includes a helpful appendix of suicide prevention/survival resources. If you are a survivor, it will be a balm to your soul.
[photo ©cas 2007: sunrise at Mustard Seed Ranch, Warner Springs, CA]
Jeff and I were on staff together at our former church with pastor and worship leader Holland Davis. With no direction and little notice, Holland agreed to provide music at Gabe’s service in California. His ministry to us was tender and beautiful. This song was one of two he sang in addition to the gentle guitar strumming that filled the sanctuary at various places in the service. The other song is called “O Love that Will Not Let Me Go.” Holland tells me it hasn’t been recorded yet. I hope he’s working on that.